Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 5 Part II – Tzfat and the Golan

Our day continued with a drive up to the beautiful and mystical city of Tzefat.  Though Tzefat (Safed) may have some biblical origins, it did not really become a significant city for Jews until the rise of Kabbalah along with the presence of Isaac Luria (Ari).

Kabbalah came to Tzefat following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 through a some what circuitous route.  However once it became present in Tzefat, we saw the rise of traditions like Lecha Dodi – the welcoming in of the Sabbath bride.

 The group toured a local Ashkenazic Synagogue before setting out on that most important of Jewish tourist activities: shopping.  Tzefat also houses a tremendously vibrant Artist colony of painters, glass blowers, and other artisans all willing to accept cash, credit, and first born children. 

Ari Synagogue in Tzefat
Learning about Kabbalah from Mike ... and later from me
The were many of the usual artist offerings including paintings filled in with micro-print Hebrew, tallitot, yarlmulkes, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and so much more.  However, one of the highlights was the presentation by a local glassblower and artist Sheva Chayya.  Sheva came to Israel from Colorado after studying art at Princeton.  Sheva grew up nominally Jewish, and it was only through first a high school Israel trip and subsequent trips that she began to pursue the idea of making Israel her home.  Sheva radiates warmth and genuine affection for Israel and her rediscovered connection to her Jewish roots (by becoming ba'al yeshivah).  This was brought about by a group known as Aish HaTorah, a group that I have strong feelings about, that I will share on another blog on another day.  But lets just say that Sheva’s demonstration led to many successful sales.  Both she and many on our group left as happy campers.

Sheva Chayya
After leaving our hard earned money, we grabbed a not so quick bite along the way, as many restaurants were closed due to Yom Ha’atzma’ut.  Even the falafel stand was closed!  Oy!

Israeli restaurants are based on the European model, meaning, they want you to take your time.  This means the waiters will get to you when they are ready, not necessarily when you are ready.  And if you are in a hurry … well … thankfully we were only a few minutes late to our scheduled date.  All in all, it could have been worse.

On the eastern side of the Jordan we were greeted by a group of jeeps and guides.  After cramming in twenty-people into four jeeps, we very bumpily made our way to across the ‘mighty’ Jordan in to the middle Golan.  Many were quite impressed to get a sense of the modern history of the Golan.  This too is another area I have strong feelings about.  Basically, given what is currently going on in Syria, with Syrians killing Syrians, I have no idea how anyone can reasonably expect them to honor any peace agreement with the Israelis, let alone one that would justify the giving up of the Golan.  For giving up the Golan would result not just in security challenges for Israel, but also in water challenges.  Syria already tried once to cut off the Jordan River, whose to say she won’t try again.

(again no photos, I didn't want to risk the camera in all of the jostling)

Following our informative and very bumpy tour (as our guide called it ‘jeep massages’) we headed back quite weary and dusty to the hotel.  I for one was quite excited because I was heading out to dinner with some of my wife’s cousins, several of whom I had never met…

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